Return To Terra
by Ann Carol Ulrich
© 1994 (all rights reserved)
It was after five and the staff was gone. Dr. Barbara Wetzel put aside the last report and prepared to lock up her office. When Manley Dobbs had called her earlier that afternoon, she had explained that her day was booked solid with appointments. She couldn't possibly go to his place until after work. He didn't want to get into anything over the telephone, but Barbara suspected he had someone over at the center whom he wanted her to evaluate. She decided to call and see if she was still needed.
A loud knock on the door prevented the phone call. Barbara opened the office up to a man of medium build, with brown hair, green eyes, and a thin mustache. He wore a suit and tie. She immediately recognized him as the overconfident, cynical guest she had seen that morning on Peter Landry's TV show, the high-and-mightly Richmond Hayes.
"I'm sorry, miss. I was looking for Dr. Wetzel's office." He turned away.
"I'm Dr. Wetzel."
The man spun around. "Oh?" His eyes took her in from head to hips, and then he smiled in a cocky fashion. "You mean you're the lady I talked to over the air?"
Barbara folded her arms. "That's right."
Richmond Hayes looked baffled. "I was expecting someone a little more..." He hesitated.
"I really don't have time to stand here and chat, Mr. Hayes." Barbara grabbed her purse and briefcase. "I have to be somewhere, if you don't mind."
"Oh, well, I... Please, give me just a few minutes of your time. You see..." Rich lingered as she shut the door and turned the key in the lock. "I felt I had to talk with you. Some of those things you said this morning just kind of... bothered me."
Barbara turned to him, annoyed. "And you bother me, Mr. Hayes. You don't think about those people you investigate. All you or your organization care about is retrieving hard-core evidence. I've seen it time and time again. You badger these people and then, when you're finished with them, you leave them with no support or encouragement. At a time when they need someone they can trust, they are left at the mercy of family, friends, and fellow workers who think they've flipped! If you ask me, I think your initials are quite appropriate. Anyone who comes to you for help is going to suffer!"
Rich stood with his mouth open. "Well, if you feel that strongly about it..."
"And now, please excuse me. I have somewhere to go." Barbara started down the hallway of the professional building, aware of the disturbing man at her heels.
"Dr. Wetzel, I'd really like to sit down with you and discuss this further," insisted Rich.
"Schedule an appointment with my receptionist," she retorted. "It wouldn't hurt to have your head examined."
"All this hostility!" Rich got to the door before she did and opened it for her. "Where does all this come from? Can you tell me that?"
Barbara looked into his face and was surprised at the interest. There was actually a hint of concern when he let his guard down. "Mr. Hayes..."
"Please, call me Rich."
Barbara sighed in futility as she walked out to her car.
"Have dinner with me tonight," said Rich.
Without looking at him, Barbara stopped and unlocked her car door. "I'm sorry, I can't do that."
Rich stood over her now. "Why not?"
"Well, I could make up some excuse, but as long as I've been honest up to this point..." Barbara looked him in the eye and bit her lip. "The truth is... I despise you, Mr. Hayes."
"It's Rich... Rich!" he insisted. "And if the truth be known, I'm not exactly fond of you either, doctor. But I really think you owe me an apology for cutting me down in front of thousands of people."
Barbara tried to remain calm, but fury raged in her breast. "An apology? Give me a break!" She climbed into the car but he got in the way of the door so it wouldn't shut.
"I'll buy," he said. "Seven o'clock at Reuben's. What do you say?"
The man was infuriating. He was the last man on Earth she would ever agree to take her out to dinner, but she was shocked to hear herself say, "I'll be there." She started up the engine as he moved aside and closed the car door for her.
"You won't regret it," Rich called as she drove out of the parking lot.
Barbara mumbled under her breath. She decided to head directly over to the UFO Contact Center and hoped Manley was still there. He had set up the center three months ago, shortly after moving to town. Barbara had left her job at Reeve Memorial Hospital last May and taken up private practice in a new city, mostly in an attempt to put past events behind her.
Unfortunately, starting a new life had not solved all of her problems. This became particularly evident when Manley Dobbs decided to divorce his wife and move to the same town. Although theirs was a strictly Platonic relationship, they shared a special friendship, brought about by the strange events last spring, when Manley's sister, who was Barbara's patient, disappeared.
Manley had inherited his sister's estate, and the first thing he did was buy the building for the UFO Contact Center and set up a nonprofit company. His sister had left her house and a sizable savings, so Manley was able to devote all of his time to the center. Barbara thought he was going a little overboard when he decided to undertake the operation, but it wasn't long before she could see the need for such an organization. UFO sightings were on the increase, and people were starting to realize that something was going on right under their very noses. Manley was busy at his center, to the point where he was recruiting people to help him out. Once in a while he asked Barbara to come and talk to someone, to find out if they were schizophrenic or not. He encountered all kinds of people -- a few textbook case nuts -- but mostly normal, everyday people in need of answers. Barbara still had questions of her own in connection with the bizarre disappearance of the three people who had been entrusted in her care in the psychiatric ward at Reeve Memorial. The two foreign doctors had been driving seven patients with the weird affliction to a specialty clinic for experimental therapy. Only they never arrived at their destination. Nobody ever found out what really happened. The van had been found in the mountains, where it had evidently rolled off a cliff into a raging river below. No bodies had been found, but the authorities finally presumed all of the individuals to be dead. The incident had occurred in March and no one could have survived the frigid temperature of that water.
Neither Manley nor Barbara had ever accepted the fact Johanna and the others had died. Shortly after the incident, Manley began having dreams, and they both started seeing UFOs. Manley swore to Barbara that his sister had been abducted and picked up by a shuttle craft out of the sky. At first she wanted to classify him as a grief-stricken, hysterical brother who refused to accept the death of someone close to him. But something inside told Barbara that Manley was right. As hard as she had tried to remain clinical and level-headed about the whole affair, strange things continued to occur in Barbara's life. She would wake up in the middle of the night and find herself standing outside on her porch in her nightgown, staring up at the sky but not remembering how she had gotten there. Her dreams were full of strangers with huge bald heads, slanted eyes that resembled an insect's, who spoke to her and told her they would not harm her if she cooperated with them. Marks began to appear on her body for which she had no explanation, and then a code-like beeping began to occur in her right ear, which came off and on without warning. She found that Manley Dobbs was the only person she could confide in, because pretty much the same things were happening to him. In each other they found relief and comfort as they embarked on their own research on the subject of UFOs and metaphysics.
Barbara pulled into the driveway of the center and parked. She met Manley at the door. "Good. I was hoping you were here."
He stepped aside to let her in. "I've got someone for you to meet. I haven't been able to get her to talk much. I gather she's a little confused. Looks like she's been living out on the streets, but it doesn't really fit her personality. Maybe you can find out more." Manley ushered Barbara inside, where she saw a young woman with long black hair in "hippy" dress seated at the table with a mug of tea. The woman stared up at Barbara, but did not return her smile.
"Kapri, this is my friend Barbara I was telling you about."
Barbara set her things down. "It's nice to meet you, Kapri."
"How about some coffee?" asked Manley.
Barbara nodded at him. "Do you mind if I sit here?"
The strange woman shrugged and said nothing.
Barbara sat down and folded her hands in front of her. "Manley says you haven't told him very much about yourself. Is it because you don't want him to know anything about you?"
Kapri took a swallow from her tea, then set her cup down. "No. It's just... everything is so new to me. I... I don't know who I can trust."
"That's understandable." Barbara studied the girl's pale skin and gentle features. "You are quite pretty. Where are you from?"
Kapri glanced at Barbara, then turned away. "Nowhere."
"Does your family know where you are?" Barbara sighed. "I suppose not. I would guess you aren't getting along well with them, are you?"
"Of course they know where I am," said Kapri. "They helped set up this whole thing."
Manley brought in the coffee and sat down at the table with them.
"When is the last time you talked to them?" asked Barbara.
"You know, called them on the telephone," added Manley.
"Telephone...?" Kapri looked puzzled.
"Don't you know what a telephone is?" asked Barbara.
"Oh, a communication device. Yes, I know."
Barbara sipped some coffee. This person was really weird. Was she putting them on, or was she really as innocent as she appeared? "Kapri, what made you decide to come here?"
"Volunteered... for what?"
"What Barbara means is why did you come to this center?" Manley clarified.
"Oh... I don't know."
"How did you find the center?" asked Barbara.
"I was walking by and I saw your sign."
"Earlier you said you volunteered," Barbara resumed. "What did you mean by that?"
"Well, we're all here for a reason." Kapri hesitated, unsure of herself.
"Go on," urged Manley. "No one is going to judge you. You can trust Barbara and me, I promise."
"Anything you say here, Kapri... anything... is in confidence," Barbara emphasized.
Kapri sighed with her hand on her heart. "I've been afraid to tell you anything because you just don't know who you can trust. There are those who would have you believe they are on your side, but aren't." For the first time she managed a half-smile. "I do feel I can trust the two of you. Please understand when I say I cannot divulge the whole purpose of my coming here. It is simply too dangerous."
"Are you able to remember anything before you arrived here?" asked Manley. "When you first walked in here this afternoon, you couldn't remember much."
"That's true," said Kapri. "It must have been the transitional reflex."
"What does that mean?" prompted Barbara.
"There's an adjustment period to the physical form," said Kapri. "You've got to understand, this is really strange for me. If you were to see me in my natural form, you would understand."
Manley looked incredulous. "Your natural form?"
Barbara pressed a finger to her lip. "Are you a walk-in, Kapri?"
The woman nodded.
"Phenomenal," breathed Manley.
"From where?" asked Barbara.
"From a planet in another solar system," Kapri revealed. "Its name is not important. For the sake of simplicity let's just call it the Blue Planet."
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